Library of Congress lectures; Pamela Travers, part one
In cooperation with the Library of Congress national educational radio presents a talk by the Australian born writer Pamela Travers author of Mary Poppins and other stories the Lectro bearing the title only connect was recorded October 30 1st 1066 under the auspices of the Gertrude Clark with all poetry and literature I find Miss Travers was introduced by the Librarian of Congress Dr. L. Quincy Mumford. Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Not all of you. Probably know that this is National Children's Book Week and this fact is responsible in part for the special pleasure we shall have this evening that I'm hearing a distinguished writer whose distinction is not only that she has written many fine books but also that she has created a fictional character who is well on the way to becoming an immortal that really am with a truly great fiction no characters live forever. Miss
Travice story is about Mary Poppins by children and adults all around the world and the laboratory to try a bit of poetry and a letter to you. Extends it's Piper's promoting their British ation of literature with special appropriateness in bringing this travel she had to speak to us this evening. Tomorrow afternoon she was here again to an invited audience of children. Miss Travers was born in Australia and began the ad to write stores stories and poems at an early age. She first published poetry when she was 16 years old. After moving to England she became a regular contributor to The Irish statesman and two English magazines in Sussex Samp to some years.
She turned to another kind of writing creating for our own entertainment while convalescing after an illness. Some stories about a nurse maid she named Mary Poppins. It was these tales that came in the book as a series of volumes about this unique nanny who you will remember blew in on an east wind. And sled up the banister. Books by Miss Travers include Mary Poppins published in 1934 and followed by Mary Poppins comes back Mary Poppins opens the door. Mary Poppins in the park and Mary Poppins from A to Z. Then there's a Christmas story the fox at the manger and a wartime Story of English evacuees. I go by sea. I go by land published veriest in 1041 and replanted in 1064
last year Miss Travice spent. A college term in Cambridge Massachusetts serving as rider in residence at Radcliffe College. Currently she is serving in the same capacity at Smith College as Travers will talk to us this evening about the sources of her books. Unlike. In title only connect is a great pleasure to present as Pamina travels. Q. But they didn't. I don't know that I can do this several couple of hours
we do and talk about how Mary Poppins came to be written you know any work of fiction any work of images is real and poetry is something you can't. Really talk about it can't say how it's done. It's a mystery. It's like a physical process of the gesture. You know your own. Could Randall Gerald has said I forget the exact words but he's always saying the poet must remain silent about the way in which he writes. And so I thought perhaps. I would talk. As it were a boat the the the compost as it were from which
Mary Poppins or Ruth. And of course that brings me to my title. Only kidding. I don't have to tell any of you where this comes from. When I was in Redcliffe last year I had an open house called the students of directive and Harvard once a week in my. Apartment. And people used to crowd in and we would talk about everything under the sun. And on one occasion I said to me that thinking was going. And one moment there it turned to me with her eyes blazing and she said Oh only can it not. And I said yes that's what I was going to call the whole scene this evening. And now you've done it for me. And she said Oh quickly quickly I was her piece of paper and write down.
And I said no not for the life of you write it down because you've made the connection already. It's really was once you write a thing down to last dot in the world is NO no longer belongs to you but only connect was the word and it's been a phrase that's been precious to me. Oh ever since I first read Howard's End where only connect is the great epigraphic that perhaps it's the thing of oh Forsters writing. You know the connection that he appears to me at any rate and I know two other people to try to make between his own passion and skepticism and a desire to find meaning and human meaning it in the inhuman world around him. To connect the individual with the community. But more than that the known to the unknown.
It's a marvelous read. Especially when you're trying hard as it is in nearly all his books to relate the past to the present and both to the future and that way because it's my dream. I can speak about nothing else really. I might talk about it. And inevitably I have to go back to the past to do this to my childhood in Australia I didn't spend all my outness training when my very young. But I was wondering and wondering what I could say about it because more and more as I read Mary Poppins and you know writers do sometimes read their own books. Every time I read it I discover something else has gone too far for me now and I often find myself saying that that must relate and that to
this. And I had no idea at the time it was not a conscious connection. In my childhood. There were very few things of any kind. In the world cost that we had close to tweet but very few toys toys were thought to be things that we should be loaded down with. And indeed very few books there were all those big ominous rows of Dickens and Scott back through which I went like a bookworm because they were simply were books. Not because I was in any sense a highbrow. But mostly we had for our usual very simple things Beatrice Potter. And Kingsley is here. We never had more than your whole thought and in a way I now can understand Hawthorne so well as I can Kingsley because hope from
it seems to me now that I wouldn't have thought so then perhaps talks down to chill. He's always inventing dear little girls play with their charming little curly haired daughter of my dad's and Kingsley doesn't do those things he gives you the mitts straight and then we're also ahead. What I don't think any child in the world to doing hair. We had paintings. You could buy a fairy tale for a penny and are. Just as good perhaps even better. You could buy a Buffalo Bill. I don't live with anybody in this audience remembers that. I dreamed about these penny books for so long. That it's good to me last year I think I made it I couldn't paint. So I said to Rosamond Lehmann who's a friend of mine I said and I'm mad. Did we help people when we were
interested. Certainly not me. We had people. And last year when I was in Toronto visiting the husband collection of old children's book going back to 17th century. I said to get any money if I could once more see a parable about Libya. And they said money when you can. Ignite. So then I began to be a bit cagey because I thought there might be something up their sleeves and I said well some money. And one of them went away and brought back something which they said. And and they said close your eyes and I close my eyes and then opened and there was a Buffalo Bill that almost seemed the very one in blue and red that I remember. It even had on the back of it the clock for two and six pins that I for so long saved up for that never got this far.
And it had also what was much more important the rifle the 7-Eleven that would kill anything at four or five yards. That I never got a loss I was asked today at luncheon what I would have done if I had had it and I knew pretty well what I was saving up for. I was saving it kill the enemies. Because you see. I was brought up by an Irish father and Scottish mother. And so I got it from both sides. And. I. Think perhaps if there was any Jew in my bringing it was. It In The fact that my parents were losing talk.
Neither of them ever read anything that didn't come out in conversation. If they read a poem very presently it would be at the breakfast table as it were. And remember. All sorts of phrases that were familiar to me and I didn't know we were told they came from. For instance my father who was a great writer and a great writer of very tricky and difficult courses he was a man devoted to his ever he came home he would call out by George Campbell is her little pony George can and I used to wonder but that's not father's name and my mother always used to call from somewhere in the house oh thank god. And we then when we came writing in we picked this up and would always go to her bonnet George Campbell is home. Oh thank God. And I didn't realise for many many years later that of course by George Campbell is a wonderful Scottish ballad a very tragic one booted and
saddled and bridled rude to her came his charger but never can me so that when the owner George Campbell came home in such droves you can imagine how happy she was still that her family would. And then they were met when a child fell over and had to be comforted. My mother would say Who was this night any fall'n child is in a sense annoyed about that. He's been out and needs to be comforted. Sometimes if my father would prevent a child from being comforted you comforted he would say no no no no no no. Let them weep we need the rain. And. You know by hindsight thinking of this teak and mythical list. Because even in Australia when I
was a child and the droughts were a cup of water would be poured to bring down the rain. Sympathetic magic and I found the founders in a book to me about the oldest civilization that the world knows where to pray for rain they would pour a cup of wine involved and invoke the God of writing. And thinking about this the other day I spoke about it to a journalist whom I was talking to in North Hampton and he said he'd been an island at the time with the President Kennedy's assassination. And one old man said to him speaking of it we cried the rain down for him that night. And the first thing to say the rain was cried down. And then there were many if any child was needed to do something for they didn't want to be make an effort Mrs Dombey and only long after was it I find that that came out of Dickens
and then not only that but in those lucky and far off days there were people to help in the house. And these two were wonderful for two for children. I remember two of them one of them called Bella who had strangely enough. A parrot headed umbrella. And this fascinated us many a person I understand now had parroted it I'm pretty There's nobody who was very rich had them but they were used to great nevertheless. And this parrot headed umbrella went out every second Wednesday on every class. And it was always Bill who brought home the most wonderful and tested stories of what she'd been doing on her day out. Well she never quite told us but she hinted things like well then because we always had Irish servants everything Irish was about us where you could know what my cousins mother in law's brothers had done.
And we would say Oh tell us tell us beyond all telling and not the years of children. And we were left to wonder always mythically what was happening had he been chained to the mast like Ulysses because of some great siren voices or was his little being slowly pecked at by some terrible vulture like the fate of Prometheus we didn't know and we naturally assumed that there were great doings going on. Things we didn't know. And I remember Kate coming home once and saying. When I saw the Freeman in the gutter and him as drunk as an English new. Site it filled out imaginations to such an extent that now I can never think about English. You. Know in my mind's eye I sing them under the table in the last
stages of alcoholic dissolution. So you see. Our imaginations were continually felt we didn't need television Indeed I've always been surprised. They don't think it is. Children don't need it. We certainly didn't in our lonely life which we lead where anywhere out in the country pregnant with the most cheeriest. And we head since nobody ever gave us anything very much and nobody ever attempted to answer questions. I mean our father expected us to know Greek and Latin or else we can let him mend terribly early ages even though we'd never heard the words he never said never explain and so we were forced to build things for ourselves. I was forced into poetry a but poetry never. Cut matched up with him because of course he was a great
admirer of Trooper hits and if his children came to did it had to be pretty good. I remember once oh it couldn't be more than six liking a poem not a very good poem but I was looking at it the other day because my mother's strictly kept every piece of paper that any child ever drawing drew a cross on me. And it said if I had a star out of the sky I'd light a fire with it to make toast. That was the first. And I remember my mother handing it to my father with great civilization written a poem and my father looked at it. Not W.B. Yeats. No. No you said my mother not as good as the one she wrote about me. But that terrible thing that rhymes mother and mother and brother and t'other
and I think it's poetry said my mother. It was about me you know. You see I was brought up on this business of Yeats and. And so on because my father perhaps because he was so very very far away from it was in love with Kathleen you know him. Nothing that I did was right nothing that were wrong nothing that I did was right. All his maxims and all his ideas went back to him into one of the things that we must never do. He said never put a baby in a drawer. No. Who would have thought of such a thing we want to know. And he used to say it again and again even if you saw DAW in a drawer you pluck it up they never put a baby in a drawer remember panel who had never heard. And I had to wait.
For this connection to be made until only a few years ago when I read the life of Charles to a toenail who was my father's great hero. Being an Irishman. It appears that when there was a very small baby his mother was suddenly called away to meet a visitor and put the baby down and when she came back discovered the baby looked everywhere. Servants were called in the darkness rummaged all around the bushes. No sign of Charles Stewart Parnell. Even then the police had to be informed. And while they were hunting through the house the mewling puking little sound came from Europe. They opened a drawer and there was Charles Jones Parr nailed six weeks old and at his last gasp because his mother had dumped him into an open drawer and absent mindedly shouted as she went out. I'm perfectly sure that was what my father meant.
So. I was as it were drenched in the Celtic twilight before I ever came into it in fact I missed out on the Celtic twilight I only came to it when its last. Fading mists were there but to it I did come in because that is another. Only Connect I've heard of it dreamed of it all my life. My father was dead by the time I was able to come. But he lived in me in all the things he taught me. And when I came to England on my way to Ireland my father's people. I had all that ready then began to write poems and began to feel that well they saw very well to be paid for poems in Australia but maybe I would like to find out if I can get paid for a poem somewhere else. And so the first thing I did was to send a poem to a who was then the editor of The
Irish statesman. And I made no covering letter as is quite a usual thing if you're going to introduce yourself for the first time but with the hot new thing. I just sent him this poem with a stamp on Phillip for it. And sure enough the stamp came back as I fully expected to do and I opened it but inside. What do you think the one poem. There was a letter from a he and a for two guineas. And it letter said I do not think this poem can be written by anybody who is not Irish. And if you are coming to Ireland please come and see me. So of course I was coming to land and I would have been coming to Ireland even if I hadn't been as it were. So I went over and made it and gradually came to know Yeats and all the people around them. Which
was a wonderful blessing for a young young writer to have all these elderly marvelous people looking into shape you know like a set of mother cats with a kitten. But indeed I was not the only kitten they did it to early young people to any of the young people around them. So then with this wonderful treasure up my sleeve as it were. Life's beginning for me I went to stay with my beloved uncle in his place in Ireland. There I was taken down several paintings because I found that my uncle was not so in love with Kathleen who in after all he lived cheek by jowl with her. She was not the marvelous angel that my father depicted. But that didn't affect me in the least. Was he very pleased to hear that I had made it. I don't like to hear you are going about with those men who see fairies. Nor do I like the idea of you going to be a writer in Fleet Street really it's a
terrible place and the way he described it you know I expected to find and receive terrible indignities from newspaper tycoon or be dragged up dark alleys by drunken reporters. And I looked forward to a tremendously that I didn't. I didn't tell him so. And then he went on to say and he said You will meet with such terrible people he said. Oh there was a frightful fella who used to live down the road a little way. Of course he's very old now but he lived down here terrible a great post for black. He said you're meeting likely very like he said and if you do I will advise you to be courteous naturally. But don't pursue the acquaintance. So I waited for who could this person be. He said his name is George Bernard Shaw. Long afterwards at blind the
blind opera at the interval of The Magic Flute. And in the interval people there go and work out in the vegetable garden because it begins at four so it's still in the first interval. Light and lovely WORKING AND AND AND AND AND. I was introduced to George Bernard Shaw a tall beautiful elegant Don Quixote. So I told him the story. And he looked at me quizzically for a while and he said Are you one of the thumb of your uncle. Oh I assured him far from it. Apart from it he said the notice pursued the queen. No. Coming home from my uncle I realized that I would have to pass by the lake where the where the island is called in history where Yeats wrote his great poem is well known by many. So I decided I would stop off there and go to see this island. And
I charged a boatman at the edge of the lake to take me there and he said I never heard of such places in history. And I said Oh but there it is I said W.B. Yeats wrote about it. And who would he be. Well I told him it was a poet he said after you know them. I know them always inventing names he said its correct Island. So we set out around the Doctor a day with a young Catholic priest. Also he wanted to join. I don't know where we picked him up he came and I got on to the island and of course there was no honey hive for the honeybee and no log cabin Naturally I didn't expect it but it was full of trees that were floating beautifully and suddenly the thought as it turned out the most disastrous thought came to me. I'd take home some branches to the pit. So quick as thought I had pretty nearly every branch from the rock.
And it was staggering to the ship and by this time the wind had sprung up and it was raining heavily in the grate. Those Irish lakes you know beat up into a wild sea very quickly. So we got in and with great difficulty were rowing towards the shore. It was really very dangerous and I don't swim very well is getting very frightened and then I saw the priest killing his beat with one hand and picking of the round berries with the other and dropping them into the water and the boatman said. Father that will be no good is not a berry or two that will save us now. No. No. And I got the idea. But really women being notoriously unlucky in a shipwreck they were going to throw me over. We got to shore safely and I staggered with my in the deep sleep reined into the train and away to Dublin.
- Library of Congress lectures
- Pamela Travers, part one
- Producing Organization
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program, the first of three parts, focuses on novelist Pamela Travers, author of "Mary Poppins."
- Series Description
- A series of lectures given at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
- Media type
Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Travers, P. L. (Pamela Lyndon), 1899-1996
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-Sp.2-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Library of Congress lectures; Pamela Travers, part one,” 1967-09-25, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-jh3d3d5r.
- MLA: “Library of Congress lectures; Pamela Travers, part one.” 1967-09-25. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-jh3d3d5r>.
- APA: Library of Congress lectures; Pamela Travers, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-jh3d3d5r